Count the Ways

Doing Things Out of Love

/ by Tom Jenks

All the things they did, they did out of love.

 

When she made us drink powdered milk, it was done out of love. When she made us wear masks, it was done out of love. When she put stones in our shoes, it was done out of love. When she put mud on our wounds, it was done out of love. When she chased the rabbits from the forecourt, it was done out of love. When she sometimes didn't let us have the cream from the milk and sometimes she did, it was done out of love. When she burned the documents and the photographs, it was done out of love.

 

There are many ways to love. There are as many as twenty-six ways to love. There are nine ways to love your home. If you do not love your home, you will always be a stranger in it. You will never learn to love how the fridge hums in the empty kitchen. You will never learn to love how the crumb tray under the toaster catches most of the crumbs from the toaster so perfectly. You will never learn to love the coal hole, blocked up with plywood. You will waste your life on Twitter and die unreconciled, without love.

 

When he listed my shortcomings, it was done out of love. When he colour-coded the list of my shortcomings, it was done out of love. When he allocated scores and weights, it was done out of love. When he performed a logistical regression analysis on the list of my shortcomings, in order to determine which variables were statistically significant, it was done out of love. When he presented the results in both tabular and graphical form, it was done out of love. When he said there were too many confounders, rendering any conclusions unsound, it was done out of love.

 

It is important to love yourself because, if you don't love yourself, then no-one else is going to love you. There are many ways to love yourself, like allowing yourself a biscuit, or not burning yourself. If you are not sure if you love yourself, then ask yourself the question how often you have loved yourself in a given period of time. If the answer to this question is that you have not loved yourself at all, then it is clear that you do not love yourself. Ask yourself why you do not love yourself and record the answer clearly.

 

When she told me that no-one would be so shallow as to love me for my looks, it was done out of love. When she told me that I would never have to worry about too many options, it was done out of love. When she told me that I would be an ideal candidate for the mission to Mars, where the astronauts will never return to earth and whose long-term survival depends upon untried cultivation methods, it was done out of love. When she wished she could put me out of my misery, it was done out of love.

 

Not feeling bad is an important aspect of learning to love yourself. Learning to not feel bad is learning to love yourself despite contingencies, technological advances or events. Choose to love yourself and choose not to feel bad about it. Make this year the year you devote to learning to love yourself. Choose to love yourself like a Chinese emperor loves mah-jong, like a mermaid loves blue water, like moss loves the rock that moss clings to. Love yourself like moss, like a mermaid, like a Chinese emperor. Love yourself without irony. Love yourself with shoes and without shoes, invariably.

 

When he told me that I was no J.D. Salinger, it was done out of love. When he told me that I was no Donald Barthelme, it was done out of love. When he told me ‘Senator, you are no Jack Kennedy’, it was done out of love. When he told me that I was no Rudolf II, Holy Roman Emperor, patron of Northern Mannerist art and devotee of occult arts and learning, which helped seed the scientific revolution, it was done out of love. When he told me I was no Lao Tzu, it was done out of love.

 

Learning to love yourself is learning to care about yourself as much as you care about others. Learning to love others is learning to love yourself because you cannot learn to love others until you learn to love yourself. Learning to love yourself is learning to ask yourself the right questions. Ask yourself if you are developing a definition of self-love with gentle but clear boundaries, supported by practices such as breathing and calming mantras. Ask yourself if you would love yourself if you lived in the mountains, amongst the snow and the lions, the mighty pines and the moon.

 

When she put the books on a high shelf where we couldn’t reach them, it was done out of love. When she poured boiling water down the hole where the ants lived, it was done out of love. When she lured the bees and lulled them with smoke, it was done out of love. When she told me that I had always been a disappointment, like rain is a disappointment or the poems of Harold Pinter are a disappointment, it was done out of love. When she died before she could see my children, it was done out of love.

 

Look in the mirror and tell yourself how much you love yourself. Learn to love yourself by learning to forgive yourself. Learn to love yourself by becoming clear on your morals and values, as they are right now. Learn that you, yourself, as much as anybody in the entire universe, deserve your love and affection. Learn to love yourself by giving love, unconditionally, to yourself. Learn that the fact that someone loves you doesn’t rescue you from the project of learning to love yourself. Learn that learning to love yourself is a life-long project, like life is a life-long project.

 

When he pointed the knife and shook with rage, it was done out of love. When he cut us each a slice according to size, seniority and behaviour, it was done out of love. When he pointed out how I had fallen short of my early promise, like a stunted tree or an overripe, split banana, it was done out of love. When he killed the fish in front of me, rainbow scales on cold grey stone, it was done out of love. When he said unhappiness was a choice and not a destiny, it was done out of love.

 

It was done out of love, all of it, done out of love.

....
Tom Jenks

has published thirteen books, the most recent being Crabtree: The Libretto (The Red Ceilings, 2017). Others include the 1,000 fragment verbivocovisual sequence Items (if p then q, 2013)  and The Tome of Commencement (Stranger Press, 2014) a spreadsheet re-write of The Book of Genesis. A collection of short prose is forthcoming on if p then q in 2018. He edits the avant objects imprint zimZalla. More at http://zshboo.org